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 Stephen Sawle and Jane Treweeke 

Jane Treweeke married Captain Stephen Sawle at the little church in Feock, near Falmouth in Cornwall. The marriage took place on April 28th, 1840. Like many men from Falmouth and Gerrans in Cornwall, Stephen had grown up in the maritime tradition and took command of the new schooner "Edward Sawle" in 1839. The schooner was named for his father who may also have been a ship's captain. Stephen seems to have spent a lifetime at sea. The portrait of his wife was painted by August van der Borght (see below) in Antwerp, the great sailing ship port, and is dated 1847. They moved from Falmouth to Cardiff at a time when this Welsh port was on the verge of becoming one of the busiest in the world as a result of satisfying the voracious demand for the coal and iron products of the South Wales valleys. Stephen died in the Russian port of Taganrog on 3rd. August, 1870. (Information on Taganrog kindly provided by Peter Brooks - who is researching the Sawles who originated in the Falmouth area).

In his wake, he left a mystery. The writer inherited a half hull model, reputed to be of one of Stephen's vessels. The model is not named and it presents an interesting challenge. It is that of a vessel which seems to have been designed for racing rather than the transport of goods around European ports. The schooner "Edward Sawle" cannot be a candidate, since the model is that of a schooner of the second half of the 19th. century, built at the time when the design of wooden sailing ships had reached its final flowering. The lines of the model seem even sharper than those of the Cornish schooner "Lizzie Trenberth" which was launched in 1867. Basil Greenhill, the great authority on British schooners, published the lines of the "Lizzie Trenberth" to illustrate the shape of a Westcountry schooner designed for speed rather than great carrying capacity. The shipbuilders of Cornwall were renowned for their fruit schooners, the ocean racers of their day, built to rush valuable cargoes of Mediterranean fruit to the port of London in the days before refrigeration. 

The hull model in question suggests an even greater sacrifice of carrying capacity in favour of speed and this raises the possibility that the vessel (whether finally executed or remaining an exercise in design) was designed with competition in mind. Some time ago, I published a picture of the hull model on the Web and invited comments. One correspondent likened the shape to that of the "America" the schooner that came to Britain in 1851 and trounced the best we could offer in competition. 

 
Click to enlarge August Van Der Borght was active in Antwerp, Belgium in the mid 19th century. He seems to have been a journeyman portrait painter with a studio easily available to the crews of the great number of merchant ships then calling at the port. The portrait at the right top of the page is dated 1847. This is a thumbnail of detail from another, painted around the same time. A Van Der Borght is known to have exhibited a "Portrait of a Lady" at an Antwerp city art exhibition. (Jan Arnold van der Borght was was active in Antwerp and exhibited between 1804 and 1813).   

The portrait on the left (click to expand it) is located in Virginia, U.S.A. The subject is unknown, perhaps he is an American sea captain. If you recognise him, do let me know. J.W.   

See also: The barque Mount Vernon, 1863.

 

  
 John Weston

 
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